Thursday, April 05, 2007

Give Them a Shovel

I took the profanity out of the title*, even though Jeffrey beat me to Pravda Picayune. If there were a major development in the French Quarter garbage dispute, if, for example, the city backed down from its demand that French Quarter residents use the new bins, you might expect expect to read it in the opening paragraph of an article about garbage collection. You'd be wrong. The following is the very last sentence of an article that appeared in today's paper:
Meanwhile, in light of concerns from French Quarter residents that the 32-gallon bins slated for that area are too bulky for the neighborhood's slim lots, Torres said City Hall has postponed bin deliveries there indefinitely.

What was arguably the most important point in the story was buried under important, um, stuff like:
Torres, the SDT president, acknowledged that the report paints a nasty picture. But he suggested it is something of an exaggeration. He said the owner of a St. Louis Street shop had been getting his trash picked up by Waste Management for years, though the business creates more trash than allowed under the old and new contracts.

Torres said he met with the owner and explained the rules. Two days later, he said, the restaurateur signed up for SDT's private trash-hauling service.

"The bottom line is he ended up getting commercial service from us," said Torres, whose above-and-beyond attitude has made him something of a celebrity in downtown neighborhoods.

Okay, at some point in our schooling, we're all taught to use synonyms because repeating the same word can be monotonous. However, there's difference in a restaurant and a shop -- a difference that might, just maybe might be important in the context of trash collection. But what a lovely ending, a restaurant or shop owner is now paying for a service that had been free.

The crux of the article was that there have been complaints about all three companies with garbage collection contracts, but most of the complaints have been the fault of residents. There's even a typical Veronica White comment:
Veronica White, the city's sanitation director, said early mistakes owed more to residents not knowing their new collection days than to shoddy service.

"In many neighborhoods throughout the city, . . . residents called to report a missed pickup. However, their collection day had changed," White wrote in an e-mail message.

That brings to mind an Adrastos post that I couldn't find, but distinctly remember because I thought about writing on the same topic. Either the city, or the private companies or the paper messed up because the new schedules were first posted in the paper on the day that they were changed. Some might call that shoddy service.

Subjective judgements about service aside, there is one item in the story that I think is very important:
SDT President Sidney Torres said most complaints against his firm came from owners of medium and large businesses, and from residents of buildings with more than four units. Those properties are not covered under the contract. He said that while those sites were excluded from the previous contract, Waste Management collected trash at many of them anyway.

"We had a lot of people who used to get picked up by Waste Management," he said. "But if you're over a certain amount, you have to have commercial service."

I was a little incredulous about a comment that appeared on an earlier post:
no one noticed the fact that the city is paying 8.9 million for the SDT contract; BUT the contract calls for private collection of any building with more than 3 residential units. If this were to be enforced, it would eliminate about 70% of the buildings in the French Quarter from receiving garbage pickup. According to the contract, also all commercial businesses are supposed to contract out for private pickup. No one to date has actually said that this was going to happen. Ms White has in the past stated that multi-unit bldgs have never gotten pickup and that this has been a law forever (of course she is completely wrong on this).

Unbelievable, the vast majority of French Quarter are now required to pay for private pickup. I wonder whether the sanitation fee appears on their water bills. It's long past time for our transparent city government to publish all three new contracts and the old contract on its website.

Oh, it's minor but following is new to me:
Other complaints owed to residents not realizing they have to call their contractor to schedule pickup of bulky items, such as furniture and tires, she said. Without an appointment, collectors will leave the debris at the curb.

I thought that I remembered the resumption of weekly pickup of bulky items being one of the selling points for the new contracts.

*The original title was "The Sh** Shovelers of Howard Avenue."

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